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Why Should You Register a Will In Dubai | A Guide for UAE Expatriates

What is a Will

Making a will is not a subject that is dealt with a lot of people as they don’t want to see death as a possible alternative in the near future. But there can be reasons why one should opt to plan out a will.
To simply put, a will is a legal document that has the plans of the testator regarding his or her assets or personal matters and the names of the beneficiaries.

Importance of a wills

Under the law of the UAE, if a deceased expat does not have a will, the UAE courts will need to apply the Sharia law over the assets that are left behind. Having a will makes the process of arranging everything on a person’s death be at ease and it gives the person an assurance that all the things that he owns, including his family, will be dealt with according to his wishes.
Therefore, it is advisable to have a will here in United Arab Emirates (UAE), especially when you own assets and have a family here, since a couple of undesirable things for your part can happen, such as the following:
• Frozen bank accounts (single or joint)
• Canceled dependent visas
• UAE law may apply on your predicament that can be unfavorable for your perspective
• The possibility of frozen/delayed investments
• Likelihood of arguments within the family regarding the assets

Wills for Muslim & Non-Muslin Expats in UAE

The rules that apply to will differ when it comes to a person’s belief. A different law can apply to non-Muslim expats and Muslim expats.

1. Will for Muslims

For Muslims, the Sharia law automatically applies when a Muslim person meets their end. The distribution of the assets will be based on Sharia law in the absence of a deceased person’s will.
These cases are based on a scenario when a husband left behind AED 500,000:

Case 1: with a mother, father, wife, and two children (one son and one daughter)
• Parents will get 1/6 each or AED 83,300 apiece.
• The wife will get 1/8 or AED 62,500.
• The son will get two parts of the remainder of the assets or AED 180,600.
• The daughter will get a part of the remainder of the assets or AED 90,300.

Case 2: with a mother, father, wife but no children around
• The wife will get ¼ or AED 125,000.
• The mother will get 1/3 or AED 165,000.
• The father will get the remainder of the assets or AED 210,000.

Case 3: with a mother and a wife but no father and children
• The wife will get ¼ plus the remainder or AED 285,700.
• The mother will get 1/3 plus the remainder or AED 214,250.

As different families have different cases, Sharia law still covers each case. In the court, the judges do not depend on the decisions of the higher courts or other courts. Judges always decide according to the principles of Sharia.
Although the law will inevitably apply, an advantage can still be gained with regard to having a will for a Muslim. A person can still draft a will that can have a third party or someone outside the family be an inheritor or a beneficiary; this is only possible if the inheritor does not receive more than 1/3 of the deceased person’s wealth. If it does, the inheritors need to approve this section of the will.

2.Will for Non-Muslims

The provision of Article 17/1 of the Civil Code of the UAE states that the law of the deceased person’s country shall be applicable to his or her inheritance at the time of passing; however, in the same law, Article 17(5) limits the previously mentioned article when it comes to properties owned in the UAE by the deceased person. Moreover, it should also be noted that the law of the deceased person’s country can be applied only if it doesn’t go against the principles of the law.

It should be expected by a non-Muslim expat, however, that when they meet their end here in the UAE and a will is not in place, law shall be used in distributing the assets.
Non-Muslim expats can have there will be drafted by themselves or a legal consultant, which is essential to be reviewed and checked by a specialist here in the UAE, and be passed to either the Dubai Courts or DIFC Wills and Probate Registry.

By this, non-Muslim expats are given the right and the freedom to have their assets be distributed in accordance with their wishes written in their will. It should also be noted that the same regulation applies to non-Muslim expats with regard to making a third party or someone outside the family a beneficiary; the amount that the third-party beneficiary shall receive shouldn’t exceed 1/3 of the deceased person’s wealth. If it does, it shall undergo the inheritors’ approval first.

Steps in Registering a Will

If you believe you fall into the classification of people with assets, properties, insurance, bank accounts, etc., then the below is a guide on how to get your own will.

1. Preparing your will

In doing this, either you or a legal consultant outside the UAE can write the will for you. However, it is of vital importance that an expert in this field must be able to review the will first before you submit it to the concerned government authority. Incorrect drafts can give your beneficiaries trouble in the future.

2. Having the will translate to Arabic

Dubai Courts require the documents to be translated by a registered legal translating center to Arabic. The translating center must be registered with the Courts and Ministry of Justice.

3. Registration

Sections in your will such as bank accounts, property, guardianship, and others can be applied throughout the country when the will is being executed. When your will is registered with the Dubai Courts, it is applicable in all of the Emirates.
A rough estimation of the cost of registering a will is AED 2,000.

4. Last step

When you have done all the steps, your will is then processed for the registration and be notarized in the Dubai Courts. No further documents are needed then to be submitted to your embassy or consulate. It is essential to note, however, that the properties that you have in your home country will still be under the local laws or rules.

People may not be eager to discuss a drafting of a will because of what it implies but having this general information, showing what could happen in an unforeseen event (death), it is worth the time to think twice with regard to taking a step to arrange the proper legal documents for not just your benefit but your family as well.

Registering a will is quite a strenuous process and it is, therefore, advisable for you to get an agent not just to help you with the step-by-step procedure but do the above-mentioned steps in order for you not to find it stressful when it comes to verifying and processing documents. You can contact HHS Lawyers & Legal Consultants for any inquiries regarding will drafting & registration in UAE as we can lend a helping hand to you when it comes to any legal matters.

Hazim Darwish

Hazim Darwish, is a Senior Partner of HHS Lawyers in UAE. Practicing law for almost a decade, he has in-depth knowledge on UAE legislation with particular expertise on legal drafting, contract drafting, labor disputes, family law, and regulatory compliance for business organizations. Hazim Darwish also provides counsel on legal rights and obligations in the UAE to clients, including individuals and businesses subject to investigation or prosecution under Criminal Law by major regulators.